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Are Starchitects Resistant to Environmentalism + Humanitarianism?

LA Times

There’s an opinion piece by Christopher Hawthorne in the LA Times about the potential absence of star architects, lazily referred to as ‘starchitects’, from the realm of humanitarian architecture.  When I say humanitarian architecture, I’m referring to such causes as environmentalism, poverty, or illness, etc.  Hawthorne laments the lack of a green Rem Koolhaus, smacking on about Peter Eisenman as the villain of green and Zaha Hadid as careless of anything other than her legacy.  To quote:

But it also means that the leaders of this new movement, who tend to be rather bland as media personalities, are overshadowed by older architects and designers far less interested in sustainability or fighting poverty — and far more experienced at attracting attention and wielding celebrity. In the last 20 years, the most appealing figures in the profession have cultivated a decidedly apolitical, even defiantly cynical outlook…

Among the green generation, who is heading up the charge? Well, nobody, really. This may be the first movement in architectural history whose followers are more famous than its leaders. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom are well-known fans of green design. Among green designers, on the other hand, we have the ambitiously principled (read: sorta vanilla) Cameron Sinclair, who leads Architecture for Humanity; the great, greatly mustachioed and soft-spoken Shigeru Ban; and William McDonough, who is beginning to project an Andy Rooney vibe.

Now, for my own thoughts…I’m not an architect, so I’ll let the pros chime in, but I will speak to the issue from the perspective of a developer or business owner that retains an architect for a project.  First, isn’t the person paying the commission the one fueling the star architect ego, egos that brazenly design with no thought for the world that the structure will occupy?  Doesn’t money dictate direction?  If I want a green building, and it’s my money, I’ll find the right person for the job.  Don’t these people have a grand stage because it’s been given to them?  Second, it seems like the leaders of the green movement aren’t singular figures, but they’re large firms such as SOM, Foster + Partners, FXFOWLE Architects, and Murphy/Jahn Architects.  It seems like it takes a village to raise a humanitarian building, not an individual. 

But, is this a contradiction with the architectural archetype in Howard Roark.  Are these starchitects just modern day Roarks?  But wouldn’t Roark try to use new materials and methods like green building + low-income architecture, etc.?  Matter of fact, as I recall, Roark did build a low-income project.  Tell me what you think…

Telus Tower of Toronto (S2)

Telus Tower Telus Tower is going to be one of the first new towers constructed in Toronto in a long time.  It could also be one of the most technologically advanced towers in Canada.  Using the LEED certification system as a guideline for design, the Telus Tower will pursue Silver level certification.  It’s expected to cost about $250 M to build, with about 30 stories comprising 780,000 sf of office space.  Telus will occupy about 60% of the building when it is completed by the beginning of 2009. 

In addition to the LEED elements, Telus Tower is going to be a showcase of "Future Friendly™" Technology in both building automation systems and tenant environments.  This will include floor-to-ceiling windows, raised floors for underfloor distribution of hot/cool air, and state-of-the-art communications cabling and electrical power. 

Good Links:
++Telus Announces New Office Development in Toronto [Telus]
++New Towers Paint the Town Green []
++Toronto Downtown Towers Going Green [treehugger]

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Smart Growth, Valuable Green Ideas, Energy Efficiency Investments + Affordable Green Developments (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Boston suburbs urged to adhere to smart growth principles or face the loss of open space and dwindling water resources. 
  2. There’s money to be made in green ideas; the business landscaped has changed from risk management to chasing revenue growth opportunities. 
  3. Businesses are investing in energy efficient measures for the main purpose of decreasing rising energy costs. 
  4. Enterprise Green Communities continues support for green buildings by handing out four grants of $70,000 to Los Angeles-based affordable housing developers. 

Eleven Times Square (S2)

11 Times Square Eleven Times Square

Eleven Times Square is planned to be one of the next green buildings in NYC at 8th Avenue and 42nd Street.  The 1.1 million sf speculative office space, with two floors of retail, will be finished in 2009.  Also, if everything goes as planned, 11 Times Square will be certified to the LEED Silver level by the USGBC.  While it’s still early, apparently the 40-story tower is two months ahead of schedule (but there’s still 2 more years to get behind schedule).  The tower was designed by FXFOWLE Architects, and specific details of green elements are kind of hard to come by.  We’ll keep an eye on it and pass on more details as the specifics come available. 

Good Links:
++Eleven Times Square [Official Website]
++11 Times Square Starts Spec Construction [Globe St.]

::"S2" is short for "Skyscraper Sunday," a weekly article on green skyscrapers posted every Sunday::

REITs Going Greener, Consumers Priced Out of Green Products, Greener Hotels, and Eco-friendly Home Costing (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Real estate industry quietly embracing green development, with 41% of U.S. REITs actively pursuing energy efficiency and green building upgrades. 
  2. Business leaders aver that even though companies are greening products of all kinds, buyers are unwilling to pay a green premium (ed. note = consumers probably think the premium is unjustifiably exorbitant, even with the green components). 
  3. Enjoy your green stay: hotels are rolling out all sorts of green programs, in part because customers demand them, and in part because they save money. 
  4. The eco-friendly house (and renovation) has gone mainstream, but is it really worth the cost? 

Armstrong's HQ Receives LEED-EB Platinum Award

Armstrong HQ

[Video: 4:25 min.Armstrong World Industries, Inc. (NYSE: AWI) is based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and operates in the business of designing and manufacturing floors, ceilings, and cabinets.  Their current headquarters was built in 1998 and is now part of an elite group of buildings to obtain the LEED Platinum certification for existing buildings.  Feel free to click the above link to see video of Armstrong’s HQ building.  The 3-story building is a glass and steel structure that has workspaces for about 235 employees.  Here are a few things they did to take the green plunge:

  • 60% of the building’s waste is recycled;
  • Building water use was reduced to 420,000 gallons (from 800,000 gallons);
  • Less than 1.5 watts/sf of energy is used, which is 1/2 the national average for comparable properties;
  • 75% of the building’s power is supplied by wind energy; and
  • Green Seal-certified cleaning products are used throughout the building. 

Now the question is:  if you own your headquarters, have you looked into LEED-EB certification through the USGBC?  We’ve seen Adobe & Owens Corning do it.  Now we have Armstrong.  Who’s next?

Good Links:
++Armstrong LEED-EB Facts & Information Page
++Armstrong Headquarters Receives LEED-EB Platinum Certification [PR]

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